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KRISHNA AND THE GOPI3.                                               61
When Krishna had completed his twelfth year, Naada, in accordance with
a vow that he had made, went with all his family to perform a special devotion
at the temple of Devi. At night, when they were asleep, a huge boa-con-
strictor laid hold of Eanda by the toe and would speedily have devoured him ;
but Krishna, hearing his foster-father's cries, ran to his side and lightly set his
foot on the great serpent's head. At the very touch the monster was trans-
formed and assumed the figure of a lovely youth ; for ages ago a Ganymede of
heaven's court by name Sudarsan, in the pride of beauty and exalted birth, had
vexed the holy sage Angiras, when deep in divine contemplation, by dancing
backwards and forwards before him, and by his curse had been metamorphosed
into a snake, ia that vile shape to expiate his offence until the advent of the
gracious Krishna.
Beholding all the glorious deeds that he had performed, the maids of Braj
could not restrain their admiration. Brawn from their lonely homes by the
low sweet notes of his seductive pipe, they floated around him in rapturous
love, and through the moonlight autumn nights joined with him in the circling
dance, passing from glade to glade in ever increasing ecstasy of devotion. To
whatever theme his voice was attuned, their song had but one burden—his per-
fect beauty; and as they mingled in the mystic maze, with eyes closed in the
intensity of voluptuous passion, each nymph as she grasped the hand of her
partner thrilled at the touch, as though the hand were Krishna's, and dreamed
herself alone supremely blest in the enjoyment of his undivided affection,
Mdhi, fairest of the fair, reigned queen of the revels, and so languished in the
heavenly delights of his embraces, that all consciousness of earth and self was
One night, as the choir of attendant damsels followed through the woods
the notes of Ms wayward pipe, a lustful giant, by name Sankhchiir, attempted
to intercept them. Then Krishna showed himself no timorous gallant, but cast-
ing crown and flute to the ground pursued the ravisher, and seizing him from
behind by his shaggy hair, cut off his head, and taking the precious jewel
which he had worn on Ms front presented it to Balaram.
* Any sketch of Krislma's adventures would be greatly defective which contained no allusion
to Ms celebrated amours with the Gopis, or milkmaids of Braj. It is the one incident in his
life upon which modern Hindu writers love to lavish all the resources of their eloquence. Yet
in the original authorities it occupies a no more prominent place ia the narrative than that which
has been assigned it above. In pictorial representations of the ' circular dance* or Easmaudai,
whatever the number of the Gopis introduced, so often is the figure of Krishna repeated. Thus
each GopI can claim him as a, partner* while again, in the centre of the circle, he stands in larger
farm with his favourite Badha.